CELEBRATING 15 YEARS OF ART
Di recente ho esposto nella splendida Villa Liberty Giuliani a Brunate, Como.
Centinaia di visitatori proveniente da tutto il mondo sono venuti, solo che erano principalmente adulti. Il giorno della chiusura mi è stato chiesto di presentare una proposta per insegnare alla scuola elementare locale ed è stata accettata. Così posso finalmente raggiungere i bambini per condividere il mio entusiasmo per l’arte.
SUMMER FASHION SHOW
Ciao a tutti,
Sono tornata sul blog dopo un inverno duro e lungo. L'estate ha comminciato bene con una piccola sfilata con giovane atlete che indossavano le mie sciarpe! E stato una serata divertente, le ragazze hanno fatto una esibizione di nuoto synchronizzato, quindi ho messo qualche foto dei costumi!
Potete vedere altri lavori di stoffe mie sotto la sezione TEXTILES sul sito, ci sono anche pezzi per l'arredamento. Ci sono le girafe fantastiche fatte di pezzetti di seta, tagliatii dai foulard o cravatte dei stilisti noti. Ho ancora qualche stola per la sera, uno dipinto a mano con i fiori ed un altro tubolare con un leopardo sopra. Nascosto dentro c'è una borsetta per la sera.
NEW TIGER SCARVES
Le mie nuove sciarpe color indaco sono arrivate da Colours of Nature, Auroville (Auroville si trova in Tamil Nadu, nel sud dell'India). Il mio disegno è stato realizzato prima con un tampone fatto a chiodi e la cera messa dopo con il metodo batik. Una volta stampate la sovra tintura d' indaco è stata fatto in un procedimento eco-friendly.
Notate il figlio dello stampatore con la sua t-shirt con scritto 'playboy'!
Le sciarpe sono 2M X 70CM
FOLLOW UP TUKASA SHOW
Volevo dire un grande grazie a tutti voi chi siete venuti alla mia mostra. Vostro supporto è molto apprezzato. Per chi non ha potuto venire vi lascio un po di fotos. Ora sto lavorando sulle nuove idea che spero di dividere con voi a breve. La primavera si avvicina e anche tante belle sorprese...
Guardate il link su You tube delle mie sciarpe animate, ci vuole solo un minuto!
Ciao a tutti,
E un po di tempo che non vi scrivo ed è ora di darvi un po di news sui miei nuovi progetti....
Sto comminciando una linea di stole dipinte a mano. Quest'estate i primi parei di cotone hanno avuto un grande successo. Ogni pareo aveva una piccola bambolina attacata in un angolo. Queste bamboline sono fatte nel sud del'India ad Auroville, dalle donne per creare un piccolo business per auto finanziarsi dopo lo tsunami.
Ora sto progettando una collezione di foulard ispirata agli animali. Ci sono le stole di cotone pesante con le frange dove faremo il batik. Ecco la foto di uno stampo a tampone della testa di una tigre fatto con i chiodi. Il disegno rimane bianco ed il resto sarà sovratinta con il colore blu indaco.Sul foulard vedrete solo alcune parti della tigre. Il procedimento della tintura è affascinante ed 'eco-friendly'. Ho visto dove creano la tintura, in un campo con le capanne ad Auroville, gestito da un spagnolo chi si chiama Jesus. Il campo è circondato da altri campi e periodicamente invaso dalle mucche sacre, e periodicamente Jesus tenta di scacciarle ma senza risultato!
Sto aspettando anche delle sciarpe da Pondicherry. L'ultimo dicembre ho portato in India delle cravatte di seta che avevo disegnato per Lacroix. Ho tagliato a pezzettini la seta per creare la figura di una giraffa. Poi le sciarpe sono state cucite su un jacquard bellisimo e foderate con vecchi saree ricamati.
Ci sono anche dei leopardi nella collezione, dipinti a mano su una seta turchese di shantung, con una apertura segreta che nasconde una piccola borsetina porta monete.
Un altra linea sara cotone/seta dipinto a mano con i coloranti naturali da un uomo chi si chiama Bond, non James mi dispiace! La tecnica è Kalamkari. Sono molto eccitata di vedere i risultati.
Qui a brunate sto dipingendo le pashminas di seta cashmere con le tigri d'oro.
Per quanto riguarda la pittura il mio amore per i colori mi sprona sempre a sperimentare nuove strade. Ho chiamato questa nuova serie "Hungry for colour” letteralmente Affamata di colori, e assieme ai colori sto usando anche piatti cucchiai e forchette. Spesso mentre cucino sono intrigata dai meravigliosi colori delle cose che sto cucinando e con una macchina fotografica sempre a portata di mano li catturo prima di metterli in pentola. Ecco una foto della nuova serie.
20 YEARS AT THE NEHRU CENTRE
It's been 2 weeks since I got back from the UK and it already seems like a lot longer. The Nehru show was a great turn out celebrating 20 years of cultural events, with about 20 different women artists. Consequently I decided to enter 2 out of 3 of my paintings for the Royal Academy Summer exhibition, but I won't know if I have been accepted until the end of May!
Certainly a highlight of my trip was the David Hockney at the RA. If he has all that energy at his age, and he must be nearly 70 and making some of the largest 'en plein air paintings' on record, then there is hope for me yet! His energy is quite amazing, but when you do what you love the more you do the more inspired you feel, unless you burn yourself out..but he doesn't seem the kind. Hockney comes across as a very rational artist and passionate at the same time....
I have come back inspired to paint and all free time when not designing for the fashion industry I am back at my easel. Morocco still inspires me big time...I hope to exhibit there one day in the near future.....
SNOW SNOW SNOW!
Well I can't say I'm not using my outdoor office anymore, as you see my table on the terrace looks like a cake with loads of icing! So it's only indoor working now with a sad lamp for those dark days but actually there aren't too many! Como and Brunate look great dressed in white. I can still get to Como with the funicular when the roads are bad and Luca has given up taking his car to work all together .
I'm designing scarves for the same company as last year and trying to collaborate with India to get some samples made of my own designs. This seems like a huge feat as communication is very slack so I just have to keep up those emails, hoping sooner or laler somebody answers!
I had a fun trip with the freccia rossa or red arrow train which got me to Florence in just 2 hours, leaving from Milan! The trip was magic and snowy all the way until we got to Florence and there was no snow but an icy wind! I was so happy to be back there since I left Florence in 1994 and rarely go back. The Duomo is always amazing! I went to PItti casa to find new clients for my interior design range. Need to follow up those contacts now!
..and to keep away those winter chills heres's my first attempt at castagnaccio...an old recipe from this area, so filling and no sugar, butter or flour:
- 500 g Chestnut flour
- 1 liter water
- handful pinenuts
- handful raisins soaked in water for 30 mins
- olive oil
mix the flour and water together, adding the raisins and pinenuts. You will get quite a liquid consistency. Dribble a little good quality olive oil all over. Bake in an oiled pyrex dish at 180°C in a preheated oven for an hour. The top should look cracked when done. EAT IT WARM
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
I am back from India and find myself thinking it must have all been a dream but this blog is helping me relive my trip. .....I arrived in Chennai on December 4th at 3am and took a lovely old white Ambassador taxi to Mamamallapuram, only I almost did not get there as we ran out of petrol. Fortunately the driver flagged down a motorbike and a guy brought us a plastic bottle full of petrol, enough to get us to our hotel. The zone turned out to be marvellous. Temples galore from the 7th Century and all in walking distance from the hotel. One of the most incredible sights is this huge stone which has eroded over the centuries leaving a ball shaped rock. The other great thing about Mamallapuram is the sandy beach where fishermen leave their boats and mend their nets and where all the children love to play. I mangaged to capture them in watercolours.
One day we took another taxi to KANCHIPURAM where I met an English girl Emma working for the NGO Ride. An Indian couple have been helping get children to go to school and stop sitting under looms where they would change the threads. I did buy some exquisite 'raw' silk as they call it in India or Shantung. Actually the silk industry is in decline and there is more effort now to stop children working in quarries. Kanchipuram is not only famous for silk but also for some more incredible temples. They are all far from each other so one needs a driver.
Another hours drive and one is in Pondicherry, the ex French colony. The street signs are still in French and Tamil. The sea front is made up of dangerous looking black jagged rocks so bathing is out of the question. The old town has a lovely feel near the sea where there are tree lined streets of old colonial houses with boutiques dotted here and there. I enjoyed hiring an old push bike, obviously left over from French days, and dressed it up with a garland of jasmine to distinguish it from all the other bikes. It is here that I found a great tailor and textile painter to help me reproduce some of my designs.
Finally I spent a week in Auroville, a land for all humanity, inaugurated in 1968 with 138 countries attending. Each one put a handful of their earth in a lotus bud shaped urn. Today there are about 33 nationalities sharing the land which covers an area of about 21sq km. Many foreigners I talked to seemed happy to live there despite the fact that they cannot own any land or property on it. The area is very green, what was once a dust bowl has been transformed into a forest since over a milion trees were planted. I saw small industries flourishing here and there in the forest. There are over 2000 people on Auroville but there is a capacity to accomodate 55,000, so they say...anyway the place has attracted about 900 Indian residents so far and seems very popular with Indians who want short breaks. I stayed in a lovely guesthouse, beautifully designed and very eco friendly with solar heated showers.
Perhaps one of the highlights which happened at the end of my trip in Auroville, was to see inside the Matrimandir, or the golden golf ball as I irreverently called it. Around it there are12 stone like petals which are actually meditation chambers (see the last sketch on this blog.) This amazing place to meditate took over 40 years to build. Walking down a steep ramp before ascending some steps I felt like I was entering a space ship. I treaded gently on the soft white carpet, slowly I ascended to the meditation chamber with a crystal ball in the middle with a shaft of light coming down on it. I sat in silence for 10 minutes, (all coughing and sneezing is not allowed)...and prayed that 2012 will be a wonderful year! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Just to say over €18,000 was made at the Christie's auction, enough to fund a years research in leukemia. It was an amazing evening and wonderful to meet so many of the other participating artists. All the works were sold. Here are a few photos for all of you who were unable to come to remember the occasion. Now it's head down and time to pack for India!
I leave on the second of December flying via Athens. Gina, my architect friend is going to follow a mud brick building course in Auroville. It is several years now since I have been back and I am very excited. I will do my textile research and hopefully visit a few temples as the area called Tamil Nadu is famous for its temples.
We fly directly to Madras (Chennai) and then go to Mamallapuram, Pondicherry and finally Auroville. All just names now but I will give you my impressions on my return (December 20th.) I will of course be taking my sketch books as always but i will also be taking some fabrics I have been developping here in Italy to finish as scarves. My idea is to sell them online so I will be putiing them on my website.
Until then wishing you all a very happy festive season!
Autumn is here and I'm enjoying the fruits of summer..our luscious purple figs and tangy bramley apples, not to mention the American style small purple grapes. We also have some tiny sweet apples which it would be good to know the name of. We might even have pears next year but we need to protect it from the munching curly horned mountain goats called 'moufflone'. They have just about eaten half it's leaves. They wake us up at night baa-ing and you can hear the clip clop of their hooves as they run off down the street. (I fear we won't be seeing much of them from now on as the hunting season has started.)
The exceptional weather has meant I have been working outside, from March I have practically never used my inside studio and am always working on our front terrace. (There have been some exceptional sunsets at night.) I have been able to develop some new ideas for scarves and will keep working on them. I am also researching new painting ideas based on my last trip tp Morocco. Last weekend I went to Freize artfair in London to check out what is happening in the art scene! I came home feeling very inspired.
October and November will be busy as I have 17 Japanese designs to develop using Kimono's from the 19th Century. This will mean a lot of work on the computer which is no bad thing as I need these skills. What I really want is to start drawing on the ipad and iphone, this would reduce my bills in sketchbooks which I seem to devour. Here are some of my latest works done in Como Nuoto, the open air pool by Lake Como. NB scroll down the photos to see all 5 images.
A new season is beginning and I want to get my creativity flowing again, I went to Milanounica, a fashion fair that happens twice a year. It gave the colour predictions for Aut/winter 2012/13. There were a lot of fabric suppliers and accessory stands. I hope to keep my hand in textiles and am looking to create my own scarf line sooner rather than later.
I had a fabulous summer going from Sardinia to the island Maddalena (between Sardinia and Corsica) and then onto Bonifacio. Bonifacio has the most amazing white limestone cliffs. The colours of the water and the light on the rocks really captured my imagination. I want to paint parallel to the textiles. There are lots of ideas! i could have spent a month sitting painting rocks! As always one needs time and loads of art materials. How now to make sense of all the colours and images?
One of the best things I did this summer was to buy an underwater camera by Olympus. It was great to mess around with it and I got some great shots-let's see where those images lead me!
This year gave us more cherries than I have ever seen! Please help yourselves from this bowl!
This is just to catch up with a few of our little trips. Paris had a huge surprise for me. The Grand Palais has been restored and now houses the incredible sculpture by Anish Kapoor.You can even walk inside this gigantic aubergine. Inside it is red and I presume like being in a womb. It is warm and everyhing is diffused with a warm glow. I was left totally bowled over. We also saw an exhibition comparing Raoul Dufy to his brother Jean Dufy. It was very interestng. I so identify with Raoul..his love for movement and music. His themes are the sea, boats, horse races, the circus and concerts...both brothers celebrate life!
Mykonos gave us a 4 days of sun and very unusual for Myknonos, no wind! I love the beaches there! Sand and gorgeous waters!
Finally a little boat trip on Lake Como. There were the annual fireworks on the Isola Comacina commemorating the setting alight of the island by the Milanese in 1100's. The music was dramatic and the fireworks lasted for ever. Even our Indian friends were impressed.
It's a while since I blogged but things have been busy. I went on my second dying course near Biella. Casa Clementina is a new initative where a young Italian couple invite textile experts to teach weaving and dying (natural dying only!)
I had fun on the first course creating a rainbow colour card using dried plants mainly. Stefano, Sissi's wife ran the course and she produced delicious meals.
Sabina my friend came on the second indigo course run by Axel Becker (email@example.com) from Norway. There were so many of us that I did'nt get to dye that much so came away with a couple of bottles to experiment at home! I hope as I said in earlier blogs to make a scarf range. This seems like a good start.
On Axel's course we made our own blocks and stencils. We also learnt to make the paste which has to dry for 3 weeks before dying it with the indigo. It looks green at first then it leaves white where it has resisted the dye.
Biella is only 2 hours away and is Italy's home to cashmere. The area was once booming but now like in the rest of Northern Italy textile factories stand empty. However the famous biscuits with chocolate are still going strong..chocolate helps any way with 'depression'!
I spent the most magical Easter ever in the UK...not only for the fairytale pre-wedding euphoria but for the AMAZING hot weather. 22°C minimum each day..my mothers' garden was in bloom..red tulips offset by bluebells, yellow irises, pink ornamental cherry blossom....Bath at it's best! I was inspired to paint this new canvas 30 x 100cm in acrilics.
We couldn't have celebrated Easter in a more traditional way. My mother blew the fresh eggs empty which we then dyed. Isabella my Hungarian friend had dyes sent by her grandmother but food dyes would do just as well. We of course had traditional tea with a simnel cake.
I made a ricotta cake, taught to me by Maria, a Southern Italian recipe from Basilicata:
2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
Mix 4 tablespoons of cornflour with
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 egg yolks
Boil milk with
peel of whole lemon
Add a liitle hot milk to the custard mix and then pour into the rest of the milk. Stir until thick.
When cool mix with
grated rind of 1 lemon
Cover the pastyry with the mixture and make a lattice with pastry strips. Bake in a hot oven (preheated to 180°C) for an hour or until golden. Sieve icing sugar on top and decorate with RASPBERRIES.
April is for Asparagus...in Italy there are white and green ones, and green ones that turn to pink.
My recipe is for the green ones with whole grain rice.
Cut off the woody stems and discard.The tips should be cut and kept to add to the risotto. Steam the stalks.
Chop 1 large yellow onion and fry gently. (If you don't have a lot of time pre-cook the rice for 10 minutes in a pressure cooker) then add to the onions, otherwise fry the dry rice with the onions.
In another saucepan heat the organic vegetable cube with water and when dissolved pour onto the rice with a ladle, keeping the rice covered with liquid at all times. Use also the water left over from steamaing the stems! The tips can be mixed in about 15 minutes after proceeding to cook.
Liquidize the stems and add to the risotto near the end of the cooking time. Once all the liquid has been absorbed stir in some good quality olive oil and sprinkle freshly ground pepper to taste. Bon appetit!
Our cherry blossom was spectacular this month and sadly it is already over. The really hot spell brought the flowers out early and the branches were so thickly laden that you could'nt see the leaves. Next year I hope to do a cherry blossom workshop, but the question is when will they flower?!
Lastly we enjoyed our afternoon at the Milan design week visiting the Triennale where there was an exhibition celebrating 50 years of design. To finish up with we ate at our favourite restaurant on the Navigli called Ponte Rosso. NB Their pistachio cake is to die for served with zabaglione cream!
MURAL IN COMO
Spring is here! We have even celebrated Indian Holi, it's time to have fun with colour! In India people throw colours all over each other, we just restrained ourselves and put a bit of pink pigment on Anand and Poorvaja! I had to let rip though and use more colour than that so I painted a panel for Luca's new office by the Duomo in Como. It was fun to work BIG! 2m x 3.6m.....I was inspired by street art and graffiti. Being a marketing and communication agency it was fit to use old posters from the 30's through to the present day. I used ice-cream containers to mix the colours and as always the desire to eat the colours came to mind!
Luca and his partner Davide come up with some great ideas for work but also for leisure..their work tables with just the addition of a table tennis net became the central focus for their opening party as people challenged each other to a game. If you want to see more of what they do have a click on their website www.moma.co.it
VALS - SWITZERLAND
For three hours we were cocooned in our metal shell hurtling through a landscape half hidden by cloud. (Our faithful Fiat Punto is still with us!) A hint of Spring now and then, yellow balls of forcythia, golden daffodils and new born lambs. Finally we arrive in Vals, a tiny village and thermal baths. The hotel is a made up of 3 huge white and blue modern buildings set among the lanky pine trees. I am trasported silently up 7 floors in a silver box, a super advanced lift, and walk out onto a sky blue carpet across a bridge suspended between 2 buildings.
Treading on velvety slippers we make our way to the thermal baths on the sixth floor. Peter Zumthor, the celebrated Swiss architect has created the most spititual and zen-like recreation water area. The simple and pure lines using local grey/black stone contrast with the jade colour of the water. You slip into the silky warm water and can stay outside for hours, never feeling cold. The mountain slopes now just a little patchy with the last vestiges of snow offer a tranquil backdrop to the place. You can pick out a local walking a dog but otherwise there is very little movement. The whole experience is about slowing down....
After dinner in Chessy restaurant we dived under our soft sheets to avoid the chilly air...we were in a peaceful state but turning on CNN we heard the news that the Americans, French and British would support an no-fly zone over Libya with military action....
The next day the sun shone and we explored the little village, admiring the delicate wooden façades of the houses, made with wooden fish like scales! Our hotel Alpina turned out to have been restored by another famous architect called Caminada. I would definitely recommend it perhaps more so than staying at the thermal baths as our room was much larger and more comfortable. The village had just one baker and one cheese shop but with such a choice of homemade yogurt! You could hear the goats bleating outside and taste the wonderful cheeses. There was even fresh milk straight from the cows! Definitely Switzerland has some amazing brown breads and so you can imagine our car was laden with goodies from fresh butter to local honey and cheeses too! We were lucky it wasn't summer yet as we had quite a way to drive back and no cool box..
March continues with the exploration of Indian culture. Poorvaja is teaching us Bolly-yog...she starts her class with Yoga and then continues into her dance class. The dance is inspired by a song about a beautiful girl who loses her ear-rings in a market. The dance accompanies the words with movements portraying her story.
and also see it on youtube -aaja nachle.
Poorvaja and her husband have just celebrated a special day for married couples. She wore a yellow thread that the husband ties it around the wife's neck...symbolizing the bond between them. She dressed up in a kamiz (top) and salwar (trousers) with a gorgeous dupatta (scarf). It is great that for most celebrations they draw a picture or mandala (or kolum, Tamil word for it,) usually with rice flour on the ground but here Poorvaja improvised and drew one with a biro on paper!
I am working at the moment on a mural 2 x 3.6m for my husband Luca's office..it has to ready by the 25th of March when he has his office warming party. I will post the final result!
Otherwise Spring is the moment to sow seeds, wether they be ideas or real seeds. Lisa Weinberg my Dutch friend and I sowed carrots, zucchini, potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes and salad. We also experimented with some flowers.
This is also a period when I am thinking up new projects and hope to work more on my textiles and paintings. My enthusiam for painting is shared by 2 very young artists, Rebecca who is 3 and a half and Carolina who's 4 and a half. Here are flowers by Rebecca. These 2 budding artists have a weekly painting class with me.
AN INDIAN FEBRUARY
Shakespeare said said 'if music be the food of love then play on'..but I say if food gives the mood for love then eat! Valentine's day is always a good day to bake so I tried my hand at some cookies made with some chopped peel from my mum's marmalade; the result..have already made a second batch and more are requested!
We have an Indian couple staying with us, Poorvaja and Anand. She had the same idea as me to put her heart on a plate...see her chapatti with strawberries on the photo. I just used raspberries. Indians and Italians love home cooked food so Poorvaja and I share this passion. Her husband, Anand, had his dad, uncle and cousins over and Poorvaja cooked Rajma, a red bean dish served with tumeric basmati rice.
If you feel like trying your hand at either the cookies or the Indian dish here are the recipes:
Irma's Marmalade Cookies
1 cup Margarine
1cup unrefined sugar
2 cups kamut flour
2 egg yolks
juice and rind 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon chopped thick cut marmalade rind in tiny chunks
Cream sugar and margarine together. Add yolks and orange juice and peel. Fold in flour and baking powder. Leave in freezer 15 minutes to chill, then form small balls. Flatten them on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 200°C
Poorvaja's Rajma...5 spice red bean dish
soak beans in water with salt overnight and pressure cook until soft.
1 yellow onion
a few green chilies (Indian chilies are very hot)
red chilie powder
Blend the chilies, onion and ginger to make a paste
Fry half teaspoon cumin 'dahnia' and 1 teaspoon of tumeric (this keeps the spices from burning and gives the wonderful yellow colour to the food) and a teaspoon of coriander powder. Add the chopped onions.
Cook the onions until golden then add the chopped tomatoes, 1 1/2 teaspoons red chilie powder and 2 teaspoons of garamasala. Lastly mix in the beans.
I microwave my basmati rice, 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. Full power on the microwave for 15 minutes.
Poorvaja fries her cumin seeds in oil then adds turmeric, she also adds peas before adding the washed rice and water.
*see the photo of the essential spices for Indian cusine.
central spice is: fenugreek (aromatic leaves of cloverlike plant with white flowers, Tamil name)
staring with red chilie powder and going clockwise the spices are:
garam masala (a mix of all the spices or masala's, masala meaning mixed spice from Northern India, name has Hindi and Urdu origins)
add lemon to make less spicy
add potatoes to make less salty
(Gujurati's add sugar to make sweeter)
This blog has been a bit slack..sorry if I have not logged in for a while. I had a wonderful trip to London where the museums are always inspiring. First I saw the Tigers in Asian Art exhibition at Asia House. There were 2 rooms full of miniatures mainly from India and China. There were Japanese woodblock prints from the V and A and one incredible contemporary piece by Wang Jin. It was a transparent plastic coat with white tigers embroidered on it in the shape of an Emperors robe. (Wang is also a conceptual performance artist.) The artist mocks the the Cultural revolution's goal to destroy the memory of traditional and artistic values. The rich yellow traditional silk has been replaced by plastic, symbolizing the new consumerism of modern CHINA. There were even some Tibetan tiger rugs from Mimi Liptons collection. I wish I could have bought one..some were on sale!
The V and A had the Imperial Chinese robes on display from the Forbidden City. I was looking for inspiration for a new textile range. Going to LIBERTY'S department store is always a joy. There of course you can lose yourself in the world of scarves. Now it's up to me!
Back in Como I am teaching ENGLISH in a printing factory. Here I am surrounded by scarves...so it's just a question of setting time aside now and getting my ideas printed out. There are so many themes I love. One day a week should be dedicated to this. ........mmm
It was a great time to be in London. I arrived on February 3rd, the start of Chinese New Year. On the following Sunday a trip to China Town in Soho was rewarded with us seeing the dragon dance infront of the shops trying to catch an orange hanging at the doorway. I hope this sighting brings me luck!
PARIS IN JANUARY
As I said in my last blog I am 'la Beffana' or witch in Italy, having been born on January 6th instead in France it is Epiphany, the day of the 3 kings. I love to eat the Galette des Roix and was fortunate enough to be in Paris to eat one! They are made from pastry with a sort of sweet almond centre with a tiny ceramic king inside. We ate in this fairytale like breakfast room which is near Chez Paul in Rue du Lappe. Chez Paul is one of my favourite restaurants in Paris...where you can eat plenty of French food and not leave hungry! My 'soupe au cresson' and grilled sardines left me so full I had to forego pudding. The waitress in the photo is the blonde owners daughter.
Eating was not the only reason to be in Paris but to see David Hockney's FRESH FLOWERS EXHIBITION at the YSL/ Pierre Bergé Foundation. It was a strange experience to see all his work displayed on iphones and ipads. Somehow the images lacked depth but I loved the luminosity. So it is time to invest in new technology.
I was also thrilled also to meet a textile designer who hand paints on silk. She reminded me how in my early twenties I used to paint on fabric in Paris. I think this might be the start of my relaunching my textile ideas on fabric. Now I will try my hand at scarves again. I painted for Sabina Fay-Braxton who made short lengths for catwalk runways, in particular Ungaro. So now perhaps it is time to look at my Hungarian roots and see if any new textile inspiration will come from it.
Coming back to fresh flowers Luca, my husband gave me this gorgeous bunch of ranucolas. It was amazingly warm enough to work outside and so I did my first piece of work on our terrace this year, it's January after all!
A SPARKLING 2011
Hydrogen filled balloons, mistletoe and a candles everywhere...Our hall with its huge white mirror was bedecked with fake icicles and real ivy, the balloons with their long trailing ribbons created a magic forest...it was party time and we wanted to live it up! The capone Thank God were a great success (see previous blog), although Luca had to sew them up as the skin was so tough. First he had to skewer the skin before using a darning needle and double cotton thread. The animals were bursting after being in the oven for about 2 and a half hours. Needless to say everyone was bursting too at the end of a 3 course meal, with a chestnut pavlova, fruit salad with pomegranate and walnuts and choux buns to end with, especially as we also had lentils near midnight. (One eats them In the North of Italy on New Year's Eve to bring one luck and money as the lentils look like coins.)
Tomorrow is Epifania or the day of the 'befana', witch...It is a holiday in Italy. The witch flies on her her broomstick the night of the 5th with a sack full of sweets. Children will get their stockings filled with 'carbone' a sweet that looks like coal. It used to be just black but now it comes in other colours too. Originally you got real coal if you had been bad during the year and sweets if you had been good. The tradition seems to be pre-Christian. The good witch could be seen as a symbol for the old year and in some places witch like figures are burnt on a big fire. So now a new year and so much to look forward too......and many new creative projects.
This is it…we have finished another year and we have had yet another Italian Christmas..mmmm not at all what I used to have back in England so I have to cook if I want turkey. Christmas is not for the fainthearted or vegetarians..it is highly meat based with butter, mayonaise and more calories then you would care to count…
Christmas Eve is when in Lombardy you traditionally eat cappelletti di carne, tiny hand made pasta filled with meat served in ‘brodo’ or meat broth. The meat used to make the broth is eaten with mostarda. This is a preserve made with fruit such as oranges, pears and cherries that have a strong mustard taste but there is not a vegetable in site! Where are my brussel sprouts?!
Christmas Day- be prepared for endless patés, Russian salad and canapés with salmon, caviar served on white bread. Then there is roast fowl of some sort but again no vegetables. Bread is eaten in huge quantites so I bought what looked like a baby crocodile. I tried my hand at pumpkin ravioli, with a Mantovan pumpkin if you please or the pumpkin will leave acquetta or water when it is cooked.
Not as easy as it seems, the pasta as it goes through the manually turned machine looks like a yellow stocking and somehow just was never thin enough.
There is not even a whiff of Christmas pudding, mince pies, or Christmas cake….remember the land here was invaded by the Austrians for over a 100 years, so we have a strong Nordic influence in the cuisine. I ended up making gingerbread houses and biscuits with my Malaysian friend who did bring me a token Christmas pudding, so I can’t complain!
P.s Just to say I will try my hand at a capon or ‘cappone’ which strikes me as the correct bird to cook for Capo d’anno..even if I wanted a turkey! This is what it looks like de-boned…it needs stuffing and no doubt everyone will be stuffing themselves again tomorrow night. So I will let you know how it turns out! Until then ‘Buon anno! Happy New Year! and all good things to you…
WINTER IN COMO
After many days of snow and working hard in my my studio, I have produced many new pieces. I am very inspired at the moment to paint animals. I tried my first leopard on a sea coloured background. I need to use turquoise. I keep buying turquoise clothes and accesories so it's normal that it should come out in my work!
This past weekend the sun shone gloriously after another heavy snowfall. Luca, my husband and I went down to Como to get my snow tyres fixed and took advantage of the wait to walk by the lake....the seagulls were whirling in the crisp air. We ate at L'Osteria del Gallo in Via Vitani, our favourite restaurant. Giuseppe the owner is obsessed with cockerels and has a huge collection. I ate pumpkin ravioli but I am sure when I try my hand at them next week that they will be better. I will keep you posted!
On the subject of food this brings us to the delicate subject of the Italian Christmas cake. The Italians eat panettone which I think is like eating cotton wool personally although I like to pick out the 'canditi' or candied mixed peel, however there is also Pan D'Oro and La Veneziana. The mountians surrounding the lake look like a Pan D'Oro cake which is brown with a dusting of icing sugar. It is more of a sponge cake. La Veneziana is like the Panettone but without the raisins and covered in crytalized sugar and almonds. I hope wherever you are you have a 'dolce' Christmas!
LA FABBRICA DEL COLORE... COLOUR FACTORY
The Colour Factory or Fabbrica del Colore is the name I am giving to my
home in Brunate 700m above Lake Como. It is here that most of my
creations take place. Our magical place looks onto Monte Rosa, the
mountain that turns pink first thing in the morning with the rising sun.
The house can be reached by a very steep mountain road wth hair pin
bends..not for the faint hearted, or by funicular, the easier option. It
takes just 7 minutes to get to lake Como from Brunate.
The house has a secret garden behind it. They say when it was built in 1906 that the owner was an architect. Not knowing what to do with extra bits of building material he made a baroque garden. Water once flowed from the grotto and tumbled down the rocks. The sweeping staircase remains and the hanging balcony.
This garden is a great source of inspiration and loved by my husband particularly who can never plant enough roses. My cat Frisette enjoys it, although all the stone steps are hard on her 20 years. We grow a lot of fruit and next year I will try my hand at vegetables.
I travel quite a lot so the inside of the house is full of colourful pieces of fabrics brought back from India or Morocco and my paintings which are inspired by these trips. The house has become my own personal gallery as the very long staircase and large landing give me plenty of space to hang my works.
Recently we had a huge snowfall and our garden became a winter wonderland. I ventured out into the virgin snow, the first one to disturb the quiet hush. The place was unrecognizable- trees boughed to the ground with their heavy load of snow...I crept beneath them, wading up to my knees in the white powder. Now and again a robin or blackbird would fly past, their whirring wings breaking the silence in this frozen world. Our terrace became an inviting scene for a theatrical outdoor party. The table seemed like a huge cake with thick white icing and the chairs had fluffy white cushions. The deck chair had a thick white blanket to lie on....who would have cared to join me for a glass of hot wine?! Next time!